Writing workshops, conferences, and retreats can be fun, interesting, and exciting ways for authors to learn more about the craft of writing. Over time, I have attended all three types of events and I usually come away inspired and always return to my writing with new knowledge to apply.

When choosing to attend a writing event, here are a few things to consider:

  • What do you want to get from the experience? Is there a specific aspect of the craft that you want to learn more about? Is your primary goal to meet and network with other authors?
  • Who is sponsoring, teaching, or facilitating the event?
  • Do you prefer a format that allows for critique/feedback on your work-in-progress?
  • What is your budget for attending writing events?
  • Do you get the most from longer events that are immersive? Multi-day events that cover a variety of topics? Or short events focused on a single topic or aspect of writing?
  • How far are you willing to drive to attend and how long can you be away from home? Do you have a writing buddy who can share the driving or hotel expenses for distant events?

Over the coming weeks, we’ll discuss all three types of events. This week, we’ll focus on writing workshops. Writing workshops are often locally or regionally sited and typically require the least amount of driving and time away from home of these three kinds of events.

Workshops are offered in a variety of formats. Although some multi-day events describe themselves as workshops, a workshop is typically shorter than a conference or a retreat. They may be a short session—45 minutes or 1 hour—during a larger event, such as a retreat or a conference filled with several days of workshop options at one locale; they can be several hours or a half-day long and focused on one single aspect of writing; or they can be a day-long event held at a local venue, such as a conference center or college.

Some workshops are of the lecture/classroom-learning type while others are experiential. For me, the best workshops are the ones that provide a chance, while still at the event, to use what I just learned in my writing so I have a chance to ask questions of the facilitator or teacher.

With the growth in online courses of all types, the offerings of online workshops have also increased. Indeed, the terms course, class, and workshop are often used interchangeably. Like in-person workshops, online workshops are offered in various formats. Some are strictly email-based: you receive a lesson from the instructor via email and all interactions between you and the instructor, and among the participants, are done via email. On the far end of the spectrum, the facilitator might employ a variety of technology to deliver the online workshop: email, pdf forms and tip sheets, prerecorded videos sent via email or available on a private website, and live video conferencing with the instructor or the entire group of participants.

Be sure to research the workshop’s format and structure, the content or focus, and the instructor or facilitator before committing to a workshop, either in-person or online. Know what your workshop tuition includes, especially if it is long enough to span a mealtime.

Some resources for finding workshops include your local, regional, or state writer’s association and Shaw Guides online. If you live near a university or college, they may offer workshops that do not require you to enroll in their degreed programs.

Have you attended a workshop that was particularly beneficial to your future writing? If so, I’d love to hear about in the comments below or via email (Gina at AroundTheWritersTable.com; replace the “at” with @). Next week, we’ll talk about writers’ conferences.